A Community Prayer offered at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C.

First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2016 *

Holy One,
as we gather in Your name and your love,
in expectant hope for Good News You have for us
through music, teaching, prayer, community and grace
at this special Advent time, the birthing
of our new, transcendent church year,
we acknowledge Your presence here—
we don’t need to ask You to come,
you are here! And we are grateful.

But we do ask You to help us
be open to You in our midst,
to trust Your whispers in our ears and hearts,
to live out loud, to dare holy boldness
in a world filled with fear,
a world that encourages us
to think small, even to be small
in our vision and our yearning.
But You are the big God, the God of all,
the God who frees captives, the God who responds to hunger
not just for food but for justice and peace,
the God who passes through walls and borders
and urges us to do the same.

Mother/Father, Birther of the cosmos,
You create all that breathes, and so much more,
and charge us with care for all You create:
yet so many are afraid, even in this room,
many filled with terror because
others, including some of our nation’s leaders
and people who live near or even with us,
people we love in this very congregation of the faithful,
have said things that sound harsh
or done things that cause us anxiety;
and we too have felt and said and done things
that create division and angst and fear.
We know this is not Your way, not the way of peace
and plenty and beauty and creation,
so we confess that we have fallen, and fall, short
and seek Your forgiveness here, now,
as we will do again many more times.

But still, we pledge to listen better, first always to You,
and to each other as well, knowing that peace comes
to those who not only do not give into violence
of thought, word, and deed, but also  
open themselves to the pain, joy and hope,
the yearnings, of others for peace and for plenty.

And we know You call us—even as we listen to discordant voices
and seek to engage them in difficult conversations—
to speak Your truth, our truths, to bear the cause
of equality and compassion and justice, surely freedom from fear and want,
from oppression that arises out of dread of difference—
different looking skins, genders, sexualities, abilities, classes,
histories, nations, faiths, and more—
for those long denied and left out of the bounty
You ordain for all Your people.

Help us, then, O Holy One of so many names,
to learn better how to be Your people
and thus to help restore the world
in Your name and Your image, renewing ourselves and our society
so the world we see and create, the world we strive to share,
is the one you called into being so long ago in Eden.
Thank you, God, for that world, and help us, God,
to make it so.

In all your names, especially in the name of Jesus,
our Brother and Friend, Guide and Constant Companion,
Amen. Asé.  May it be so. 

* A recording is available here

©Robin Gorsline 2016

Don’t Miss the Party!

A Reflection on Proper 11, 9th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts
A leaky roof is a fearsome thing for a church
causing not only water damage but spiritual damage too,
as people focus on the building, money and contracts,
possibly forgetting who and what is central;
or maybe the damaged roof signifies a leak elsewhere,
inability to keep all things in balance or a failure
of people to invest enough of themselves to support
the whole church. Of course, Christ is the one foundation,
and the roof a very second-tier thing even though it
is on top, because even if the roof falls in the church remains.

African church leaky roof picssr com

Maybe Jesus is showing Martha just that truth,
suggesting hierarchy of value—it is not that dinner
does not require preparation by us but it cannot replace
or subsume the feeding of our souls. The most important
hour at church is not the potluck nor is the building our center;
indeed, if it is, as it seems to be for some, Jesus, Holy Spirit,
Holy Parent will wonder where and who we are.
And if our focus neglects the poor, the immigrant, the widow,
too, if we feed only ourselves and our friends, then
as Amos says, our feasts, like our roof, may be turned
into mourning as for an only child, our songs into lamentations.

What we want, need, from the Holy One by whatever name
we call, is Presence, as appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre,
so we can greet and offer refreshment, hospitality, listening;
then we can hear what is intended for us, what we need;
but if we focus first or only on the sagging, leaking roof,
we can so easily miss the visit, like Jesus coming to our door
and we mistake him for a door-to-door salesman, saying
“Not today, thank you.” Abraham listened though he doubted
Sarah could bear a son, but the key was his open arms and ears.

It is always that way. Do we welcome unexpected visits,
do we listen even when we have work to do, or do we think
God must conform to our schedule, priority, need, fear?
I know I am so often Martha, and perhaps you, too;
that does not make us bad people, it just means we will miss
the best stuff, we will miss the icing and the cake, ice cream
and candles too, and even the singing, maybe the whole party
which is the gift of God for us all every day without end.

About this poem . . . . Jesus’ exchange with Martha always feels uncomfortable to me. I remember that someone has to make dinner, and do the dishes, etc. and it seems easy for Jesus, as a man in a society even more patriarchal than our own, to tell her to stop her chores—if she does not do these things, will the slaves do it,  or will there be no dinner? But then I remember how often I complain about all the work I have to do, and how it becomes an excuse to skip meditation and prayer, and how often the busy-ness of church (and so much else) overwhelms my need to slow down and listen for the still, small voice wanting to break through easy, ordinary resistance.


©RobinGorsline 2016
Please use the credit line above when the poem is published in any form

Will We Let Ourselves Be Changed?

Reflection on Proper 5, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost
(Click here for biblical texts)

Can you imagine being alive in the days
when Jesus walked, when Jesus walked,
I say again when Jesus walked,
when Jesus talked, when Jesus said to an
unnamed young man, Rise from your bier!
and even soon after, when Paul was touched,
knocked down from his religious height,
the perch of supremacy, of knowing
your faith is right, the other wrong . . .
Can you imagine, I mean can you really grasp
what it must have been like for either of these two,
one certainly dead, the other deadly certain?

And what of the others–how would we react if
someone sat up in the open casket
or began banging inside the closed one,
different yes from someone beating cancer
odds, surviving surgery doctors said would likely kill,
but still cause for celebration. A miracle?
Would it be like one raised Republican,
slamming others who want government to fix things,
climate change a hoax, Obama worships Allah,
realizing they were wrong, and rising to say it
while incredulous neighbors, long named as traitors,
suddenly find Saul now naming himself as Paul
at the local Democratic caucus voting Bernie? A miracle?

A miracle? Does the Pope decide or do we?
It was a miracle I passed my German test one point to spare–
it is that one extra point that felt like the miracle
at the time, making it clear: not a fluke.
I know its small potatoes, but if you knew how little
German I really knew you might be on your knees
as I was, allowed to stay in graduate school
to take more tests in subjects about which
I actually knew much and cared far more.

Have you experienced a miracle, or even more than one?
Do you expect more? Do you want more in your life,
in the life of the world? Do you pray for a miracle
or have you given up? So much that passes for wisdom
today seems bereft of the possibility of change
coming from outside ourselves, coming from on high,
or low, wherever we imagine God to live (of course,
when we do this, we limit God again, just like those who
claim God lives only in the pages of the holy book).

Too many so-called leaders claim they will make things
all better–great again, if you vote for me–not seeming
to need the rest of us, let alone divine aid–a clue for sure
at how limited their vision is, but then we do the same thing
when we leave God out of our plans, do not include
the ever-present possibility of miracles in daily life.
We cannot assume such intervention–hubris of the worst sort–
but to assume God has already used up Her quota
is an equally egregious egotistical exaggeration
of our place in the cosmic order, claiming for ourselves
the roles of Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier (spiritual energizer).

Sure, we are descendants, chips off the old block, but
we are not the block, the Source herself, and S/he has lots of life left
and will use it whether we agree or not. The question is, as it was
for Saul and the mother’s only son being carried to his grave,
will we let ourselves be changed, or will we persist
on our way, no matter how ugly, how limiting, how lacking
in godly mercy, justice, hope, grace, joy and love?
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . So often we read stories of healings and raisings and assume the age of such things is over. But is that true? Or have we set it up in our minds so that we can’t see miracles right before our eyes? Have we set ourselves up in a cynical theological mindset so that God can no longer be God, no longer do what God does?


©Robin Gorsline 2016
Please use the above credit when publishing this poem in any form